Monday, December 04, 2006

Pahk the Kah-ching

Last week, the Boston Globe reported the sale of a $250K (outdoor) parking place in the Back Bay section of the city. Talk about Pahk the Kah-ching!. The average for an outdoor space in the downtown area is only $92K. (As we say in Boston, a bah-gin.) If the new parking space owners had been willing to walk about 2-3 minutes, they'd have been able to get an indoor space for only $200K in the Brimmer Street Garage. And if they were willing to take a five minute stroll through the prettiest city park in the country (Boston Public Garden), they could have parked for about $350/month in the Boston Common Garage. Even the lamest investor could squeeze enough return out of $200K, let alone $250K, to cover this fee. I guess that proximity is everything in life.

I can certainly sympathize. Having a car but no parking place in the city is one big howling pain in the butt. When I was a regular commuter, I parked in the Common Garage, which has a nifty overnight and weekend package that when last I checked was going for $110/month. The garage is clean and well lit and, except for the rare mugging, pretty darn safe. Once I wisely stopped commuting, but unwisely decided to hang on to my car, I dropped my parking pass. Now, whenever I venture out, I spend the ride home dreading the search for a place to park. I've been known to spend a half and hour or more getting into a real tight space because the rule is you never pass an empty space, however puny, because it might well be the last one on earth.

Parking of course gets worse in winter, when few people bother to fully shovel out a space they're going to give up. A complete parking nightmare.

So I can sympathize with the desire to have a guaranteed parking space close at hand. But I just can't fathom the big payout for a space of one's own when there are decent monthly rentals around that may be slightly more inconvenient, but make a whole lot more economic sense.

And here's the real interesting little part about unsheltered street parking that I'm sure the $250K parking place behind 31-33 Commonwealth Avenue will run into at some point. In winter, a car with a recently turned off, still warm engine, is what you might call an attractive nuisance. The BMW, Hummer, Lexus, or Mercedes that's parking in the $250K space may well have an engine that serves as a picnic table for rats.

Yes, rats.

A couple of years ago I lifted up the hood of my Beetle to add some windshield wiper fluid. On top of the engine I found chicken bones, pineapple, and frozen fruit cake. It took me a moment to figure out what had happened - truly, my first thought was that someone had popped the hood and held some kind of voodoo service on my engine. Then I noticed the rat scat. Just lovely. (Blessings on my brother-in-law, John, who cleaned it up for me.)

It hasn't happened again since, maybe because I avoid the location where "it" happened. But I know that there are still parts of the neighborhoood where the parking is in an active rat-picnic zone. I was talking with my next door neighbor just this week, and her husband recently found a giant crab shell - among other treats - under their hood. It's not just Beacon Hill and Back Bay. A former colleague of mine had a rat tenant-at-will when parking down by the waterfront.

Good luck to the folks who spent all that dough for outdoor parking in an alley behind Comm Ave. I'd love to see the look on their faces when they pop the hood and find the crust of a Figs pizza and a grapefruit rind.

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